When the Southeast Asian Tsunami cost so many lives in one day, we all took notice, and relief efforts emerged from all over. However the severe drought in Niger places more than 400,000 children at risk, we're slower to respond. In fact food aid is only beginning to trickle in – three months too late, according to Mego Terzain of of Médecins Sans Frontières, which has been sounding the alarm about malnutrition in Niger. Action Against Hunger has begun the distribution of more than 4,000 tons of food in Mali and Niger, but the organization describes "the need for real long-term commitment to revitalizing the area, not just short-term relief." Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, and though its government has been trying to overcome its economic problems, it can't hope to cope with the effects of the current drought. WorldChanging is about solutions, and I find myself wondering: how can we help the poorest of the poor developing nations solve both immediate and ongoing systemic problems?
Thanks so much for posting this, John. Dr. Robert Day shared some interesting ideas on this at a recent Global Public Good conference. While the short term solutions may be easier to put in place, there are some critical roadblocks that make the longer term ones more of a challenge.
There's some wonderful work being done around the areas of sustainable agriculture, and yet within areas of research where some of the most innovative solutions are discovered, there is also the reality of needing to compete for scarce funding resources. Until we find a better way of making it compelling for folks with those islands of innovation to begin building bridges to cultivate a broader sharing of ideas, resources and programs, I think we're going to find the notion of a broader cascade of uplift around this is a real challenge.
Howard Rheingold's "Cooperation Project" has a real resonance this way:
It's the kind of thing that will help us fuel the kind of sharing that's required for long term, sustainable change.
Thanks again for helping bubble this up into broader view, Jon.
I got Sue's comment over on Omidyar and wrote about it on my campaign blog and my personal blog. I don't have any great answers or solutions but the little bit that I can do is to join the chorus spreading the word about crises that need attention. Thanks for the part you are doing as well.
Thanks, Sue and Aldon. Perhaps we need a 'Global Crises' blog that is to situations like malnutrition in Niger or genocide in Sudan as the SEA-EAT blog was to the tsunami: "news and information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts."
That's an idea worth exploring, Jon. The viral nature of blogs tends to make them more powerful than traditional news sources (as evidenced by the fact that WorldChanging is the first thing I read each morning, even before a cup of fair trade coffee ;^)
Continue to appreciate this wonderful connecting point that you've been cultivating here.
Will bring your thoughts back to omidyar.net to do a bit of brainstorming on this.
"Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, and though its government has been trying to overcome its economic problems ..."
Are you sure? Perhaps, I can draw to you attention the following news report.
In particular the paragraph:
Ms Sekkenes said the International Monetary Fund and the European Union had pressed Niger too hard to implement a structural adjustment programme. 'No sooner had the government been re-elected [this year] than it was obliged to introduce 19 per cent VAT on basic foodstuffs. At the same time, as part of the policy, emergency grain reserves were abolished.'